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State of the Labor Report Shows PA Sliding

Just ahead of Labor Day, the left-leaning Keystone Research Center is calling on the state to spend more to support public sector jobs and on the private sector to pay their low-wage workers more. 

The Harrisburg-based think tank’s State of Working Pennsylvania report shows the state’s strong employment position immediately following the recession has begun to falter.

“In that very first year of the recovery we ranked 7th in total non-farm job growth and 12th in private sector job growth relative to the other 50 states,” said Keystone Research Center Labor Analyst Mark Price.  “Thanks in large part to both federal and state cuts in spending we have lost that early advantage.”

Price notes that 45,000 public sector jobs (including education jobs) were lost between December 2011 and January 2013, which he said is equivalent to the closure of 20-25 factories. 

“Policymakers have been hitting the economic brakes when they should be hitting the accelerator,” said Keystone Research Center Executive Director Stephen Herzenberg.

The report found that after adjusting for inflation, pay has fallen for low-, middle-, and high-wage workers since 2010.  That comes at a time when productivity was growing.

“From 2010 to 2012, low-wage workers at the 10th percentile saw their earnings fall by 3.8% to $8.37 an hour, while a worker earning the state’s median wage saw earnings fall by 2.6% to $16.77 an hour. High-wage earners at the 90th percentile saw their pay fall by 1.6% to $37.45 an hour, while those at the 95th percentile saw earnings fall by 4.3% to $48.06 an hour,” said Herzenberg. 

During a conference call releasing the data, Herzenberg called on Pennsylvania lawmakers to join in efforts by activists and some other states to increase minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.  At the same time he pointed to the fight UPMC workers are having with the healthcare giant to increase wages for service workers, which he says could have a far reaching ripple effect.

“If UPMC saw the wisdom suddenly of raising its wages…. UPMC absolutely has the power to lift up the lower part of the labor market in the region,” Herzenberg said.

The research also found that while the shale gas industry continues to grow, the new jobs are no longer in the drilling of the wells.  Price said the growth is now in the construction of pipeline to move the product to market.  However, Price was quick to point out that the growth of 10,000 oil and gas jobs in the last two years only made a small impact on the state’s over all numbers.  He says the largest growth was seen in the accommodations and food service, health assistance, and professional services sectors.

The full report can be found online.